GitHub Web edit

A short while ago I switched by blog over to GitHub Pages. One of the issues I’ve ran into occasionally since then were people reporting 404s on some of my blog posts. Up until today I’ve been handling these one at a time and only as they came up. It was starting to become clear though that there were a few issues that were prevalent from the switchover.

Case Sensitivity

It seems like there is no shortage of debate no whether or not URLs should be case sensative but most blog engines seem to treat URLs the same regardless of casing. This was certainly true of my blog when it was hosted on Veritas. However, GitHub Pages is definitely very case sensative. If I (or anyone else) had linked to page on my site using casing other than what the actual filename specified, a 404 would come up. Unfortuantely, after doing some digging, it doesn’t appear there is any easy option for turning case sensitivity off.

The Fix

Fortunately, there is guidance on using gem named jekyll-redirect-from to set up redirects. Unfortunatly, this is not a “install it and everything will work” sort of solution. Instead, you need to go into each page and in it’s front matter you have to specify what URLs should point to it. If you wanted to allow for ANY variation in casing, you’d end up with quite a few lines there (2^x where x is the number of letters in your page title in fact). Instead, I was most concerned with the most common url format, where all letters were lowercase. So for this page, where the URL would be:

I put this in the front matter:

  - /github-pages-redirects/

One issue I ran into when I first set this up was that if you don’t put the trailing / then when you navigate to the page using the redirect URL, Chrome (and maybe other browsers) will redirect but then also open the save dialog. From what I found it looks like if you don’t put the trailing / or a valid extension, the server serves it up as an octet-stream. So make sure you test out your redirects and you’re not causing that to happen.

In the course of doing this I also found a mess of other pages that had gotten screwed up due to the dreaded single quote vs apostrophe issue. However, now many of the 404s I knew about, and even more ones that I didn’t, have been fixed.

Chris Risner

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